Jokes and the Holocaust


I just watched the documentary LAST LAUGH on Amazon Prime. Here’s the description they give:

Can a tragedy the scale of the Holocaust ever be the subject of comedy? Perhaps more importantly, should it be? Here we see comedians pitch in with their own views on the boundaries of comedy - views tested against the reactions of Holocaust survivors.

Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, and a ton of other comedians talk about how and when you joke about tragedy, and (the part I found most fascinating) WHY you’d joke about it. Even Holocaust survivors are interviewed about what humor was like in the camps.

“We were miserable but without humor I don’t think we would have survived.”

It’s a really great documentary with a lot of great points on both sides. That’s one of the things that I loved about it. There’s not a neat and tidy conclusion. Not everyone agrees. One survivor talks about the importance of finding the humor and another says is offensive to even suggest there’s humor to be found.

What are we allowed to talk about?

What are we allowed to joke about?

This is the subject of one of my videos in HOW TO LEAD A CULTURE OF CONFESSION.

My main rule is that we should be aware of what we’re laughing at. Victims should never be the punchline.

I think Mel Brooks is pretty strict about following this rule when it comes to the Holocaust. To him it was important to make fun of Hitler and the nazis, to make them look so silly. He called it “revenge through ridicule.”

The other thing I really loved about the documentary is how it illustrates the two ways comedy can get through a dark time.

First, comedy can distract us. It can be a powerful form of escapism. Robert Clary, an entertainer and Holocaust survivor recalls performing in make shift shows in the camps. “For the 10, 15 minutes I performed, they forgot where they were.”

That’s so beautiful.

Secondly, the main point I think the comedians are trying to make about why they want to make jokes that involve tragic subject like the Holocaust is because if we can joke about it we can talk about it. If we can make jokes then it’s not bigger than us.

I really think this documentary is worth your time. You might totally disagree with a lot of it, but I think it’s a really fascinating topic and worth exploring.

Here's the trailer: